Friday, June 17, 2016

The Heroic Adventure in Meal Planning

I’m scrolling past photos of Walking Tacos, Quinoa Paella, salads of all sorts and grain-free recipes that no doubt pop-up because of my flirtations with a low-carb, high-fat diet.

And then, just below a royal purple racerback tee emblazoned  with “Weekend Forecast Camping” is a bird. Well, at first I thought it was a lizard but upon closer inspection, I saw that it is Bonzai – a yellow-eyed, sharp-beaked creature of my nightmares. It’s eating seeds and bits of fruit off an ordinary paper towel.

Staring at me just as I stare at the sometimes beautifully photographed dishes that I hope will inspire a healthy, well-thought out menu of dinners for my family.

Alas, my Pinterest homepage is dish after dish that either looks too processed or too complicated to make in the approximately 7 minutes I have to prepare dinner from the moment I cross the threshold of the front door until Si has a meltdown, demanding to be held or fed. Although, to be honest, his preference would be both – to sit on my lap as his little fingers grope for the best bites on my plate, leaving me with a trail of crumbs and baby hand grub and a pair of pants covered with cheese. Because cheese, always.

My meal planning efforts halt momentarily, wondering just why someone would add such a photo to Pinterest and, more pressing, why it would show up on my homepage. But I can only look at Bonzai before too long before my stomach churns and the memory of a bird frantically flapping over my head forces me to continue to scroll.

Cheddar Ranch Chicken Burgers … Sriracha Ranch Chicken … Italian BBQ Ranch Chicken … Oreo Cheesecake Dip … Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting … Easy Enchilada Skillet with Chicken … Chicken Bacon Garlic Alfredo Roll-ups … Chicken Alfredo Pizza

So much chicken. So much ranch. So much sugar. And zero drooling.

I’m not sure what I’m looking for beyond that it needs to be manageable and palatable for the family. Well, I guess I’d like it to be manageable and palatable for me, too, making it easy for me to stick to my goal of more protein, less all.the.carbs.

I scroll a bit more – Black Cherry Waffle Cake (sweet baby Jesus, stop it, Pinterest!), Mexican Zucchini Burrito Boats, Pad Thai, Italian Meatloaf Hamburgers, Creamy Ricotta Zucchini Noodles.

All of it looks good, some of it even possible, but yet I don’t click through. I switch tabs, look at the Aldi and Meijer ads for the 15th time this morning, and stare down at the grocery list.






Below the days of the week, next to which no dishes are written, is a chicken scratch list of ingredients. Frozen waffles, frozen dinners, yeast, the very specific “fruit” and “salad fixings,” tuna and juice.

I add frozen broccoli since it's the only vegetable my family will eat with any regularity and beer because, hello, Mark and I have two kids.

Before putting much more (read: spending more), I do a mental review of what's in the freezer – a pound of ground turkey, salmon fillets, a dozen or so breakfast burritos and leftover watermelon margaritas from the weekend when Mark was in a car crash.

Ground turkey ... ground turkey ... ground turkey. Mark hates it when I buy it and he'll probably hate me more when I put it in the lasagna I've just now decided to make. But I'll throw in some Italian sausage as a compromise.

With one day, Sunday, down, the others seem to fall into place. Saturday will be dinner out, and Monday will be slow cooker lime chicken (thanks to the suggestion of my BFF). Also thanks to my BFF, we'll be hopping on to the Taco Tuesday trend with an Asian twist that I found on Pinterest. It was the one recipe that didn't have ranch.

But, it's chicken. Of course.

Wednesday. It's all that's left. I pause for a moment, check the circulars one more time and then decide to wing it. Maybe it will be sandwiches, maybe it will be leftovers. Maybe I'll make omelets. Or, we could opt for my favorite – going out to eat under the guise that I'll get a break when in actuality we spend an hour wrangling kids who are too tired to function in public, with at least one of us bringing three-quarters of our meal home to eat while the other bathes said kids.

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